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Boris Duvidzon (3/4/2022)

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

When the Great Patriotic War started in 1941, Boris Duvidzon and his family were living in Mogilev-Podolskiy in Ukraine at the border with Moldova. Boris lived in his grandfather’s house, which had been converted into apartments. His mother’s brother and sister also lived in the house with them. His family learned of the war when they heard the bombing start. During the bombings, Boris and his family hid in the cellar of their house. Boris’s father was drafted at the beginning of the war. His family escaped to the village of Ozarentsy, spent the night there and headed to Luchinets because Boris’s mother’s sister in law had relatives there. If they had not left Ozarentsy, they would have perished because the Germans shot all the Jews in that village. The Germans invaded quickly and their Hungarian allies soon arrived in Luchinets. So, Boris’s family had no choice but to return to Mogilev-Podolskiy. However, a bomb had completely destroyed their house, so they moved into an empty room in a house belonging to his distant relatives.

On August 15, 1941, the Nazis put barbed wire around several streets in Boris’s town and herded the Jews from throughout town into that area. This was the beginning of the Mogilev-Podolskiy ghetto. The Nazis put up guards and banned Jews from leaving the area under the penalty of death. The house in which Boris lived was inside the ghetto. Immediately, they started having problems getting food. One of the floods that frequently occurred in the town allowed them the chance to get some food from a flooded warehouse. This included wet flour and lentil. The flour was baked into a bitter-tasting flatbread that was black and gluey inside and the lentil was ground into a white substance and made into pancakes and porridge. A stone fence surrounded the ghetto which eliminated the possibility of escaping. A strict rule required all inhabitants, starting with five-year-old children, to wear a Star of David on their chests.

Thousands of Jews from Bukovina and Romania soon joined the local Jewish population. Boris’s house became more crowded. Boris and his uncle's family (seven people) were placed in a small room (his aunt had died of typhoid fever) and a family of Romanian Jews occupied the large room. Boris remembers the arrival of the Romanian and Bukovinian Jews as “a horrible nightmare.” There was overcrowding of people in dwellings and unsanitary conditions which led to an epidemic of typhus and typhoid fever. There were also many beggars to whom Boris’s mother gave leftover lentil porridge. Many deaths resulted from the lack of food and overcrowding. Each day, dead bodies were hauled away in carts and buried in mass graves. Numerous raids in the ghetto rounded up Jews and sent them to the camps of Pechora and Ananyev, where they were used for the very hard work of peat extraction. During the raids Boris hid in the cellar of the house, which could be reached through a secret opening in the kitchen.

The gendarmes (ghetto police) were very cruel and it was impossible to avoid their whips. The local polizei were also very cruel. One night the polizei stormed into Boris’s house and grabbed his uncle, who did not make it into the hiding place on time, from a wooden box where the children usually slept. The polizei took him to the railway station,where people were sent in trains for peat extraction. Boris’s uncle returned to the ghetto in 1943, but his health was greatly damaged, and he died soon afterward. Boris’s father’s sister was in the ghetto with her husband and two children. After the husband died, and she broke her leg, she accepted an offer to send her children to safety and sent the two boys to an unknown place on a steamboat. No one ever learned what happened to them. Boris’s mother decided against tempting fate by sending them into the unknown.

Mogilev-Podolskiy was liberated from the Nazis in 1944. The bridges across the Dnestr were blown up, trapping many of the German and Romanian troops in the town. The day before liberation, a German stormed Boris’s house. He looked at all of them with a flashlight as they lay down and then left without killing them. Boris says that he “still remember[s] the horror of that moment.”

Boris’s father was killed in Hungary in 1944. Boris’s grandmother, Lyuba, was killed in Simferopol with his Aunt Basya and her two children. His Aunt Basya’s husband died in battle, leaving none of their family members alive. His older cousin Menashe, who was a student at Kiev Medical Institute, was killed in action at the beginning of the war. His younger brother, Pinya, who lived in the ghetto with them, had turned eighteen by the time of liberation. He was immediately mobilized and sent without training into the Jassy cauldron, where he soon was killed.

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